Boris Johnson’s controversial holiday in Spain came under new scrutiny today when it emerged that the luxury £25,000-a-week estate on Costa del Sol where he’s staying is linked to a tax avoidance row.
The PM has been holidaying in fellow Tory Zac Goldsmith’s lavish villa with his wife Carrie and young son Wilfred where he has been unwinding by painting in the hills above Marbella in southern Spain.
He had already faced criticism for taking a break in the midst of the fuel and empty supermarket shelf crisis engulfing Britons.
But today the trip came under fresh attention when it emerged that the property is featured in the so-called ‘Pandora Papers‘.
This is the name given to the notorious long-running leak of almost 12 million documents which reveal hidden wealth, tax avoidance and even money laundering by some of the world’s rich and powerful.
The documents show that the estate is held by ‘an opaque offshore structure based in multiple tax havens’, says The Guardian.
This structure apparently involves the property being owned through a Maltese company which in turn is held by companies in the Turks and Caicos Islands and administered by a wealth planning firm based in Switzerland.
Boris Johnson has been holidaying in fellow Tory Zac Goldsmith’s lavish villa (pictured above) with his wife Carrie and young son Wilfred where he has been unwinding by painting in the hills above Marbella in southern Spain
The Prime Minister pictured with ex-MP and member of the House of Lord Zac Goldsmith in September 2019. There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing by Goldsmith, who was promoted to the Lords by Johnson
Mr Goldsmith, an ex-MP and now member of the House of Lords, declined to discuss the details of the arrangement but the newspaper goes on to say the fact the PM’s holiday ’at a property that appears to be held through a chain of companies in secretive jurisdictions will probably raise questions about his commitment to reforms designed to introduce transparency to offshore property ownership in the UK’.
There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing by Goldsmith, who was promoted to the Lords by Johnson, but the paper notes that the documents it has seen ‘raise questions about whether Goldsmith holds valuable and income-generating assets offshore.’
The PM and his family’s arrival in Andalusia at the weekend had even prompted comments in the Spanish media about his decision to go on holiday while Britain is in the grip of fuel and food shopping crises.
Spain’s Canal 3 TV station reported about the British prime minister’s absence live from the country estate this morning.
While Mr Johnson insists he remains working to solve Britain’s growing problems, he has been seen lounging around on the terrace of the luxury property with his hands behind his head as well as painting.
It was revealed ahead of Carrie’s move into No10 that Mr and Mrs Johnson relax by spending their evenings painting together, with some of their pieces hanging on the walls of her flat in South London.
The pool at the villa in Marbella on Costa del Sol. The documents show that the estate is held by ‘an opaque offshore structure based in multiple tax havens’
An outdoor seating area at the property in Marbella. The premier has faced criticism over the timing of his trip abroad, amid Britain’s continued fuel and energy crisis
A living area inside the property. Mr Goldsmith, an ex-MP and now member of the House of Lords, declined to discuss the details of the arrangement
The PM had sheltered from the 30 degree sunshine during the day but emerged as the temperature dropped.
The premier has faced criticism over the timing of his trip abroad, amid Britain’s continued fuel and energy crisis, along with the publication of a scathing report that laid bare a string of failures ministers made in handling the coronavirus pandemic.
But No10 and Government figures have defended his right to take a holiday this week, with Security Minister Damian Hinds saying it was ‘important for the whole country’ that its political leader has time to switch off.
He has also been spotted working at his laptop in between periods of relaxation and is being kept regularly updated on the ongoing work to address the current issues around fuel and supply chains, according to his spokesman.
The Pandora Papers have named more than 100 billionaires, 29,000 offshore accounts, 30 current and former leaders – including earlier this month Tony and Cherie Blair and Sir Philip Green’s wife.
The estate is a short drive from the picturesque village of Benahavis, and has its own helipad to make sure VIP holidaymakers can arrive and leave without being seen
Carrie Johnson pictured with Mr Goldsmith (left, with Health Secretary Sajid Javid right, out campaigning in 2017)
No10 and Government figures have defended his right to take a holiday this week, with Damian Hinds saying it was ‘important for the whole country’ that its political leader has time to switch off. Pictured: Boris and Carrie last took a family break with Wilfred in Scotland last year
It was revealed Tony and Cherie Blair avoided paying £312,000 in stamp duty when they bought a £6.45million London office.
The Blairs denied any wrongdoing after it was said they were able to save more than £300,000 in stamp duty when they acquired the property by buying the offshore company which owned it.
In a statement, a spokeswoman for the couple said they had bought the property in ‘a normal way through reputable agents’ and should not have been ‘dragged into a story about ‘hidden’ secrets of prime ministers etc’.
It also emerged that Sir Philip Green’s wife Tina bought four properties in London using an offshore company when BHS collapsed in 2016, including a £15million apartment in Mayfair.
Through their lawyers, both Sir Philip and Lady Green declined to answer detailed questions from the BBC about the property splurge, suggesting that these were private matters.